Choosing to invest in a learning management system (LMS) is the easy part. Picking the right system for your specific needs is where things get tricky.
Knowing what you need to look for is not always obvious, and being able to distinguish between certain features is a skill that has to be cultivated. That’s before you consider the intricacies of choosing an LMS that’s on your shores.
This guide will help you through the questions to ask of your organisation and vendors when seeking an Australian learning management system, as well as some key features to keep an eye out for.
Why should Australian buyers look for Australian learning management systems?
Where your learning management system is hosted is a major factor for security. Most cloud-based systems store data via the internet (hence the cloud title), which means that users will have to connect to at least one data server to access the system. Said data server isn’t guaranteed to be in Australia, just because the LMS vendor is Australian.
If you’ve got sensitive user data, you could violate privacy policies if you’re aware of data hosting. Your LMS data may also be subject to the regulations and laws of the country it’s hosted in, depending on jurisdiction.
The tyranny of distance can really be a major factor for cyber security. You may be aware of key Australian standards IRAP and ISO 27001, but these don’t always hold as much weight in other regions. For example, SOC 2 is considered a golden standard in the United States. Overseas vendors may not even be aware of the standards your industry requires of you.
Aside from security concerns, you may also find customer support lacking for overseas vendors. It’s not just about being in the same timezone (though that is not to be diminished), but about having a vendor that understands the laws, standards, market and culture in which you work.
If you pick an international LMS solution, the support staff might be unacquainted with the local context and unable to answer any questions you might have about compliance training specifics, for example. That can also affect time to implementation (if they don’t have local support to help) and data migration, if you’re coming off a different LMS solution.
How can you determine the best Australian LMS?
There two sets of questions you should be asking when seeking training software.
- The first is of your internal buying group
- The second of LMS vendors.
And we recommend in that order, so you can sort out your non-negotiables before vendors start trying to sweet talk you (because, unfortunately, some will).
Questions to ask of your buying group
Start with a bit of soul-searching when looking to procure the best learning management system for your organisation.
What are we trying to achieve with a learning management system?
There are plenty of use cases for the humble LMS aside from just learning management. A few examples being to:
- Create custom courses, perhaps for internal capability academies
- Facilitate social learning, like virtual workshops
- Gather learning data through automated reporting tools
- Increase talent retention through career pathways
- On-demand training or mobile learning for a dispersed workforce
- Achieve greater cost effectiveness for workplace training.
The right learning management system should serve business needs, not just offer online learning. Shifting your mindset can help you better justify the features and functionality you need from an LMS.
What is our budget?
This is applicable to purchasing any learning management system, not just looking onshore.
You’re looking for value. Other business leaders will only see expenditure, so you need to reframe a purchase to an investment. To really outline the most appropriate budget, think about:
- Content development. The online courses organisations can create will differ between platforms, so consider the capability and capacity you have to do that in-house.
- The shelf-life of content. While it may be cost-effective at first to repurpose eLearning courses from a vendor’s training library, skills have a five-year expiry date.
- Projected costs. Are user numbers forecasted to change? Do you have a multi-year learning strategy? Do you expect the L&D budget to expand to accommodate any of this? You’re not just buying this system for today, but future goals.
What are our own roles and responsibilities?
Again, think about the capabilities of your own L&D department. Will they be responsible for simpler LMS duties like progress tracking, or do you need them to understand the system in and out so they can perform internal user training?
Other functions, like human resources and organisational development, may also need to have access to your learning management system for the purpose of capability building programs. That’ll impact the level of support you need.
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Questions to ask of LMS vendors
You are trying to build a relationship with your learning management system provider. It’s not just about hosting some online courses. To get the most out fo your investment, think about the way an LMS can help with the entire employee life cycle.
Will we have access to Australian customer support?
Having a clear idea of what level of customer support you can expect to receive is vital. If you opt for an LMS provider that is based outside of Australia, you’ll be running the risk of not being able to receive assistance during traditional business hours, which can greatly reduce the efficiency of your eLearning content if and when an issue arises.
If you’re operating out of Sydney but the LMS help centre is based in San Francisco, for example, there will be a 17-hour time zone difference and their customer service personnel might be fast asleep when a problem arises in the Australian afternoon.
Additionally, it can be helpful to look for a provider that delivers round-the-clock support, particularly if your employees are likely to access eLearning content outside of normal working hours.
Do you have local case studies or customer stories?
Word of mouth is probably the best way to understand the real LMS user experience. If the majority of a vendor’s clients are outside of Australia, they may not be familiar enough with the landscape to provide the service you need.
That can extend to their technical partners and integration features. They may simply not be aware of, for example, content providers that offer Australian-centric compliance training. Many content partners may also hold exclusive contracts with vendors, meaning you could be paying on top of your LMS fees to purchase quality eLearning courses.
Customer stories and references can highlight how tailored a service LMS vendors provide, too, which generally helps you understand their fit for your needs.
What security measures or integrations do you utilise?
Data security isn’t solely about where data is hosted. Data encryption is also important for learner data.
Alongside IRAP, SOC 2 and ISO/IEC 27001, consider:
- Single Sign On (SSO). Enables users to repurpose login details that already exist. That may be their employee credentials, if you’re managing organisational learning.
- xAPI. An updated version of SCORM, xAPI makes it easy to capture learner activity across different platforms. For example: If they complete credentialed online training through a third party provider.
Make sure to ask about data recovery plans, particularly for any online learning management system. No system is infallible, and it’s better to be prepared than hope the worst never happens.
LMS features to look out for
As with any worthwhile tech investment, knowing what features you do and don’t need will be a make or break.
Not everything is as shiny as it seems, though, so we recommend weighing these against your definite needs to ensure they’re worthwhile for you. Keep in mind these aren’t standards or on the roadmap for all systems, Australian or not.
Microlearning is something that we tend to encounter on a daily basis and essentially involves learning in smaller steps—if you’ve ever looked up a quick fix on YouTube, you’ve engaged in microlearning.
Consider that 38% of content that’s shared on line is educational or informational. Having an LMS solution that allows you to deliver eLearning content in bite-sized chunks is a great way of making sure that your employees are able to learn and gather information effectively and at their own pace without being overwhelmed.
It’s also an easy way to account for varying levels of competency between learners, given they can access content as they need.
Learner engagement is a pretty good indicator of the value of your LMS. One reason you may fail to achieve solid engagement rates is because training is one-off, or long programs take up too much time.
Look for a learning management system that offers some kind of spaced repetition, a technique that centres on users reviewing eLearning content at specific, regular intervals. If something needs to be memorised or reinforced, spaced repetition can prove to be extremely effective since no matter how greatly we engage with learning resources, we naturally tend to forget the finer details as time goes on.
Upskilling was all the rage for a while, but the next frontier in online training is linking learning to your business strategy. That can be done by mapping capabilities to content in order to provide:
- More strategically impactful L&D
- Clearer career progression for employees
- Better insight into performance for managers
- A real impact to your organisation’s bottom line.
It also means you can take a blended learning approach, by timing eLearning to be more impactful alongside on-the-job learning, so that online courses can supplement more tactile capability building in the flow of work.
Opting for a solution that also offers a high level of interactivity through the integration of graphics, courses, quizzes and so on is a great way of improving engagement in capability-led learning. Gamification—aka utilising certain principles of games points, competitions, prizes in eLearning—can also boost engagement through healthy competition in specific cohorts. Your sales team, for example.
Offering eLearning content solely in English might prevent certain employees and business partners – particularly those from non-English-speaking backgrounds—from being able to access all of the benefits.
Allowing users to be able to select the language that they’re most comfortable operating in is a feature that can go a long way towards maximising the effectiveness of your eLearning resources. This is a fairly technical item for vendors, so it’s worth asking if they have the ability to add languages at all.
Most L&D leaders know they need some form of technology to help with organisational development. What isn’t always considered is buying local; that is, finding a learning management system from your home country.
If data security, local support and compliant content are all concerns for your Aussie organisation, then we recommend taking a look at Australian LMSs. Don’t just take any vendor at face value, though.
Ensure you know:
- Your business objectives for procuring an LMS
- Your budget and future goals
- The technical capabilities of your L&D team
- If you’re getting local, onshore support
- The security certifications vendors hold
- Their proven history in your market and/or industry.
Take control of your eLearning priorities
Related Reads on This Topic
Improving Compliance Training in the Workplace
Including the risks not doing it and how run a well-oiled compliance program.
Building Employee Engagement Through Employee Experience
It starts by gathering employee sentiment – after all, employees know what will engage them best.
What You Should Ask Before Talking to LMS Vendors
A little soul-searching (or internal environmental scanning) will help you buy the right LMS.